HEALTHY eating advice in the UK that everyone should “eat less red meat” is putting millions of women at risk of anaemia, it has been claimed by experts.
A quarter of women of working age do not have enough iron in their diets, according to a recent Government survey In the UK – a factor that can lead to the condition.
And half of teenage girls are potentially iron-deficient.
But despite red meat being rich in iron, an “Eatwell Guide” published by Public Health England suggests that everyone should reduce the quantity they consume.
The advice comes as vegetarianism and veganism are growing in popularity.
Nutritionist Emma Derbyshire said: “Encouraging all population groups to eat less red and processed meat, as the current Eatwell Guide does, is not helpful and places women at risk of iron deficiency and related anaemia.”
Robert Pickard, professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, added: “This blanket statement should be revoked.
“It is poor guidance and an inappropriate public health message that disadvantages women.”
Twenty-seven per cent of women aged 19 to 64 – and 48 per cent of 11- to 18-year-old girls in the UK – are not getting the recommended minimum daily dose of iron, according to figures published by Public Health England.
That means more than 6.5million girls and women across Britain are at risk of iron deficiency.
Meanwhile, average daily consumption of red and processed meat by women of working age has dropped from 58g in 2008 to 47g in 2013.
Iron deficiency among men is almost non-existent.
Blood cells need iron to create haemoglobin, which in turn transports oxygen around the bloodstream.
If the body lacks iron, blood is not sufficiently oxygenated, leading to fatigue and loss of concentration.
The Eatwell guide, in a graphic designed to look like a plate, advises: ‘Eat less red and processed meat.’
It was drawn up by Government health advisors concerned about a potential – but unproven – link between eating lots of red and processed meat and bowel cancer.
Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: “Eating too much red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
“There are plenty of other sources of iron, such as green, leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. If women are iron deficient, they should seek advice from their doctor.”